View of early morning sunlight shining through vaulted archways onto dewy grass

Hailes Abbey: History and Stories

Set in tranquil Cotswolds countryside, Hailes Abbey was once one of the most significant pilgrimage sites in medieval England. Visitors flocked to see the Holy Blood of Hailes – a relic so prized it was mentioned by Geoffrey Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales. The shrine to the Holy Blood was destroyed during Henry VIII’s Suppression of the Monasteries and the abbey soon fell into ruin.

Today the former splendour of Hailes Abbey is evoked by its beautiful surviving stonework and museum collection. On these web pages you can learn more about the history of the site, explore the highlights of the collection in 3D and watch experts discuss their favourite objects in the abbey’s museum.

The Treasures of Hailes Abbey

Step into the world of Hailes Abbey in medieval England. In this short video historian Michael Carter and curator Ian Leins take us behind the scenes at the abbey museum and pick three star objects which bring the stories of Hailes to life. The exquisite carving of Samson and the Lion on a stone ceiling boss hints at the splendour of the monastic architecture, while a fragment of bone spectacles helps us to imagine the lives of the monks who once worshipped and studied here. The third object – a 16th-century seal depicting the Holy Blood of Hailes – evokes the importance of the abbey as a place of pilgrimage.

 

Explore the Collection in 3D

Scroll through the images below to view the highlights of Hailes Abbey’s museum collection in 3D. Click the play button and use your cursor or touch screen to rotate the object and zoom in. For descriptions of each object, click the title in the top left of the screen (opens in new window).

Models derived photogrammetrically by Jon Bedford of the Geospatial Imaging Team at Historic England on behalf of English Heritage.

The Stories of Hailes Abbey

  • Aerial view showing an artist's impression of how Hailes Abbey would have looked in the 16th century, set amid rolling pastoral fields and woodland

    History of Hailes Abbey

    Discover the full story of Hailes Abbey, from its foundation in the 13th century to its downfall under Henry VIII and subsequent rediscovery in the 19th century.

  • Detail of seal matrix showing figure hold orb with cross on top

    The Holy Blood of Hailes

    The fortunes of Hailes Abbey were transformed by the arrival of a holy relic. Learn how the Holy Blood of Hailes contributed to both the rise and fall of the monastery.

  • Detail of manuscript illustration showing monk drinking from barrel

    Misbehaving Monks of Hailes Abbey

    From visiting taverns to singing at the wrong pitch, the monks of Hailes Abbey couldn’t always meet the high standards expected of them.

Read More

  • Whitby Abbey, North Yorkshire

    Monasteries and Abbeys

    Learn more about England’s medieval monasteries and abbeys and uncover the stories of those who lived and prayed in them.

  • Cartoon of monks and nuns

    A Mini Guide to Medieval Monks

    Do you know the difference between the Benedictines, Cluniacs, Carthusians and Cistercians? This short animation will guide you through the different religious communities in medieval Britain.

  • Colour photograph showing ruins of Hailes Abbey in early morning light with autumnal trees in background

    Buy the guidebook

    Explore the site of Hailes Abbey and its fascinating history with our brand new guidebook.

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